Archive for December, 2008

Children’s Christmas concert

Christmas is a working day here.  So I celebrated after I got home from work by opening a can of stuffed grape leaves that Clayton and Jenn had sent to me.  What a treat—a little bit of Greece in Mongolia!  And I followed that up with a piece of chocolate-covered spicy dried mango from Tracy.  Bet you can’t top that for a Christmas dinner!  Background music was Christmas carols from my laptop.

            And the best part of coming home these days is that the husband of the couple who live in the other half of my house is now coming in to my side in the afternoon and building a fire for me so it’s warm when I get home.  And he is filling my woodbox.  What a joy! 

            It’s not that Mongolia is unaware of Christmas—but mostly in its secular garb: Christmas trees in shops, strings of lights, lots of tinsel, pictures of Santa Claus.  The day before Christmas, a woman who works for a local TV and FM radio station next to the Chamber asked if I would come to her children’s Christmas concert at a local kindergarten—and take pictures.  So at 11 in the morning we went to the school and sat on the benches with a bunch of other parents to watch these adorable children perform.  I’ll put some of the photos up on the blog.  Children range from 3 to 5, more of a nursery school.  An electric keyboard provides the music and 2 big microphones are used by the children.  Wearing fancy costumes and hair-do’s, the children came out into the room by ones and twos and sometimes more to sing or dance or perform in some way.  A very long concert—but really fun and full of laughs.  Kids’ comfort in the limelight ranged from being dumbstruck at the sight of all those people to those who are natural performers.  After every child had performed in some way, a Santa dressed all in white who has been sitting patiently by the Christmas tree through the whole concert, delivered a bag of presents to each child (perhaps supplied by the parents).  I believe Santa here is more of a Russian Santa and has another name—but I’m not sure what it is.

            Enjoy the photos.

 

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December 26, 2008 at 7:46 am Leave a comment

Entrepreneur of the Year

The Friday before Christmas, our Chamber of Commerce held its 2008 Entrepreneurs of the Year event.  It was held at a large local hall with a huge dance floor, a stage, and 2 balconies that held long dining tables lined with various beverages and bowls of fruit and candy

.  I didn’t even know such a place existed here!  All I knew was that at this event the top 10 Entrepreneurs would be named and also the #1 Entrepreneur (just another name for business person).  I knew my co-workers (4 of them) would be wearing evening gowns and they kept asking me what I would wear.  Believe me, I would not have considered an evening gown even if I had had an evening dress.  Layers, layers, layers is my dress code no matter what the event. 

            Mongolians love these events where framed certificates and “gold” cups and medals are given out with much fanfare and everyone comes up on stage and people clap.  Since our CoC was the organizer we went over to the big hall with all our award materials at 6.  There we changed clothes backstage with everyone walking in and out—no dressing rooms. My co-workers put on their strapless chiffon evening gowns and 6-inch heels and I put on 2 black skirts, warm black tights, low heels, a long-sleeved underwear top, a red long-sleeved blouse, and a fancy vest!

            Tables were set for 10 and slowly the tables filled and everyone waited and waited and waited—around 8 the program got started with performances from a couple or singers, 2 dance groups (one of teenagers and one of little girls dressed in white with Father Christmas attending).  Some speeches and then a whole slew of awards given out with all the fanfare of coming up on stage and presenting of awards and cheering.  A disc jockey with a fancy keyboard and big speakers provides plenty of volume and drum-beating suspense.  Then a whole host of drawings of numbers from ticket stubs for gifts of some sort took place with lots of cheering and then a 3-course meal was served (2 servers for about 150 people so it took a while).  Finally there was dancing—both the Russian/Mongolian waltz and disco dancing.  For disco dancing, groups of people gather in circles and some dance in the middle by desire or invitation.  Once again I ended up Disco Queen.  As an American friend said, Mongolians like to dance with the foreigners.  I kept thinking that the last dance was coming—but every time people sat down for a few minutes, the music started up again—and on we went.  I finally got home at 2 in the morning—fortunately, Bold had not locked the gate so I didn’t have to climb over the fence!  I took a lot of pictures although it was fairly dark inside and I had to be pretty close for the flash to have any effect.   Hope you enjoy them. (remember you can click on a photo to see it larger)

By the way, the top Entrepreneur was a bakery that I toured some weeks ago.  Lots of pastry type items and a pretty big operation for Khovsgol.

Last photo shows Cheryl showing off her Christmas cookies.  She and her husband, Luke, are with the English Language institute and also keep the missionary church running while Cheryl’s sister and family (the missionaries) are back in the states for the winer.  Cheryl invited several of us over to make Christmas cookies.

 

December 26, 2008 at 7:18 am Leave a comment

I need your help…

   I’m making this a separate post because it is so important to me.  I consider all my friends and anyone who reads this blog as a resource and a fellow participant in this Peace Corps adventure.  I hope you’ll have some ideas you can pass along to me about subjects I mention or information I’m looking for.  Or perhaps you can put me in touch with someone who is an expert in an area I need help with. As I’ve said before, my access to the Internet is often limited and so I wlcome your help. 

 From time to time, I’m going to post requests for ideas or information about projects I’m thinking about or working on and I’ll appreciate any help you can give me on the subject.  Or perhaps you just have some ideas I ought to think about or suggestions for projects or maybe you know of an organization working on an issue I’ve raised.  

 I’ll give you just a couple of ideas now:

1.  I would like to find ways for some of the handicrafts made here to be able to be sold online.  I read about a company called Ecosandals selling sandals made in Africa online and tried to contat them but haven’t gotten any response yet and haven’t had time to pursue it.  Having read Friedman’s The World is Flat, I want to help find ways to provide acess to the small businessman into the online world.  E-commerce is a challenge but it is happening and I’m sure there’s a way to make it work here.  For example, there are lovely handmade felt slippers here I think would make an ideal item to put online.  But there are many issues to deal with from a technological standpoint as well as packaging, mailing, financial, etc. etc.etc.  But as Friedman says, “If it isn’t happening, why aren’t you doing it?” (I think I got the quote right…)
 
2.  I would like to find a way to encourage the development and distribution of healthy, affordable, appealing snacks for children that could start to supplant some of the nutritionless candy and snacks that fill the stores here. 
 
Any ideas?
 
 
 

December 8, 2008 at 4:20 am Leave a comment

Getting down to business….

You probably think all I do here is celebrate with my friends and have fun wearing my Mongolian deel. I haven’t said much about my “job” which is to be a “community economic development” volunteer at the Chamber of Commerce in Muron. Since the Chamber has never had a PCV before, the actual job description and the work itself is a work in progress. For those who PCVs who are English teachers (the majority of PCVs), the work is much more defined. For us business volunteers, or at least for me, the work is trying to figure out where and how I can contribute to the business development in the community in a sustainable way.

The language issue is the first big hump to deal with. My Mongolian is still very sketchy, both speaking and understanding, though I am working on getting better. My supervisor, Saraa, who is the director of the Chamber was very hesitant to speak in the beginning, but I am discovering she understands a bit more than I first thought and is gaining some confidence in trying to use English. We still “talk” with our dictionaries in our hands and I’m never quite sure I’ve really understood what she’s trying to communicate and I’m sure she feels the same way. But I’ve no doubt we will get better.

One thing we began doing early on is to visit some of the members of the Chamber in the community. I made a list of questions for Saraa to ask these business owners, basic information about their business with the last question asking if they have any problems they think I might be able to help with. Sometimes I can take a tour of the business (we visited several bakeries in the area—and the free samples are great!). I also just look around to see if something occurs to me.

For example, we visited a hotel in Muron—probably the nicest one and the owner there speaks pretty good English. One of my goals is to find ways to enable those who have small handicraft businesses to display and sell their goods to tourists passing through. There is a small reception area in the hotel—and it occurred to me this was an ideal place to display local handicrafts. After all, every hotel in America has a gift shop and also a rack to display information on nearby attractions. I spoke of this idea to her and later she told me her husband thought it was a good idea. So I will try to pursue making that happen, not only in this hotel but in others in the area. Most of the people who make items out of felt or carvings or other handmade items have no real place to sell them.
Another idea came from an afternoon conference I attended some time back now sponsored by the Tourist Information Center–which pretty much is only open during the summer. Fortunately, the man mentioned in an earlier blog posting with the ger camp translated a bit of what was discussed. The attendees wanted to find ways to keep people in Muron a little longer instead of just a brief stop off on their way to Lake Hovsgol. After the conference I suggested to Saraa that we meet with the woman who heads the Tourist Info Center about planning some sort of an Arts Festival several times during the summer with craft and cooking demonstrations, concerts of traditonal songs, instruments and dancing, and a number of other activities that would appear to tourists. I suggested we meet on a weekly basis since there would be a lot of work involved and we are doing so, after a fashion. It’s an ambitious ideas but even if we can do it in a small way, I think it will be helpful.
I also prepared a brochure in English for another Chamber member based on a Mongolian version and will probably do more of that kind of thing. Of course I still need sometime to translate from the Mongolian into English and then I make it good English and more sales oriented.
I also will continue to teach some English to members of the Chamber. And I will have some sort of secondary project apart from the business focus–which Peace Corps wants you to do. I hope to do something in the area of gardening or more handicraft development. Wool is used to make felt but not much used for making yarn here–would like to figure out how to facilitate making yarn. I’ve a lot of ideas, but this will give you a flavor of what I’ve been doing.
I also wanted to write about Thanksgiving spent in Hatgol up near Lake Hovsgol with a group of mostly Americans at the home of some missionaries from the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Church who were very welcoming to 3 of us PCVs for the weekend. And to tell you about my experience helping Tsermaa (who lives in the other 1/2 of my house) skin a dozen freshly killed chickens–here they slit the throats instead of chopping off the heads and don’t pluck the feathers. I’ve become an expert! But those stories will have to wait for another time.

I’m making this a separate post because it is so important to me. I consider all my friends and anyone who reads this blog as a resource and a fellow participant in this Peace Corps adventure. I hope you’ll have some ideas you can pass along to me about subjects I mention or information I’m looking for. Or perhaps you can put me in touch with someone who is an expert in an area I need help with. As I’ve said before, my access to the Internet is often limited and so I need your help.

From time to time, I’m going to post requests for ideas or information about projects I’m thinking about or working on and I’ll appreciate help you can give me on the subject. Or perhaps you just have some ideas I ought to think about or suggestions for projects or maybe you know of an organization working on an issue I’ve raised.

I’ll give you just a couple of ideas now:

1. I would like to find ways for some of the handicrafts made here to be able to be sold online. I read about a company called Ecosandals selling sandals made in Africa onlin and tried to contat them but haven’t gotten any response yet and haven’t had time to pursue it. Having read Friedman’s The World is Flat, I want to help find ways to provide acess to the small businessman into the online world. E-commerce is a challenge but it is happening and I’m sure there’s a way to make it work here. There are lovely handmade felt slippers here I think would make an ideal item to put online.

2. I would like to find a way to encourage the development and distribution of healthy, affordable, appealing snacks for children that could start to supplant some of the nutritionless candy and snacks that fill the stores here.

Any ideas?

Getting down to business, etc.

You probably think all I do here is celebrate with my friends and have fun wearing my Mongolian deel. I haven’t said much about my “job” which is to be a “community economic development” volunteer at the Chamber of Commerce in Muron. Since the Chamber has never had a PCV before, the actual job description and the work itself is a work in progress. For those who PCVs who are English teachers (the majority of PCVs), the work is much more defined. For us business volunteers, or at least for me, the work is trying to figure out where and how I can contribute to the business development in the community in a sustainable way.

The language issue is the first big hump to deal with. My Mongolian is still very sketchy, both speaking and understanding, though I am working on getting better. My supervisor, Saraa, who is the director of the Chamber was very hesitant to speak in the beginning, but I am discovering she understands a bit more than I first thought and is gaining some confidence in trying to use English. We still “talk” with our dictionaries in our hands and I’m never quite sure I’ve really understood what she’s trying to communicate and I’m sure she feels the same way. But I’ve no doubt we will get better.

One thing we began doing early on is to visit some of the members of the Chamber in the community. I made a list of questions for Saraa to ask these business owners, basic information about their business with the last question asking if they have any problems they think I might be able to help with. Sometimes I can take a tour of the business (we visited several bakeries in the area—and the free samples are great!). I also just look around to see if something occurs to me.

For example, we visited a hotel in Muron—probably the nicest one and the owner there speaks pretty good English. One of my goals is to find ways to enable those who have small handicraft businesses to display and sell their goods to tourists passing through. There is a small reception area in the hotel—and it occurred to me this was an ideal place to display local handicrafts. After all, every hotel in America has a gift shop and also a rack to display information on nearby attractions. I spoke of this idea to her and later she told me her husband thought it was a good idea. So I will try to pursue making that happen, not only in this hotel but in others in the area. Most of the people who make items out of felt or carvings or other handmade items have no real place to sell them.
Another idea came from an afternoon conference I attended some time back now sponsored by the Tourist Information Center–which pretty much is only open during the summer. Fortunately, the man mentioned in an earlier blog posting with the ger camp translated a bit of what was discussed. The attendees wanted to find ways to keep people in Muron a little longer instead of just a brief stop off on their way to Lake Hovsgol. After the conference I suggested to Saraa that we meet with the woman who heads the Tourist Info Center about planning some sort of an Arts Festival several times during the summer with craft and cooking demonstrations, concerts of traditonal songs, instruments and dancing, and a number of other activities that would appear to tourists. I suggested we meet on a weekly basis since there would be a lot of work involved and we are doing so, after a fashion. It’s an ambitious ideas but even if we can do it in a small way, I think it will be helpful.
I also prepared a brochure in English for another Chamber member based on a Mongolian version and will probably do more of that kind of thing. Of course I still need sometime to translate from the Mongolian into English and then I make it good English and more sales oriented.
I also will continue to teach some English to members of the Chamber. And I will have some sort of secondary project apart from the business focus–which Peace Corps wants you to do. I hope to do something in the area of gardening or more handicraft development. Wool is used to make felt but not much used for making yarn here–would like to figure out how to facilitate making yarn. I’ve a lot of ideas, but this will give you a flavor of what I’ve been doing.
I also wanted to write about Thanksgiving spent in Hatgol up near Lake Hovsgol with a group of mostly Americans at the home of some missionaries from the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Church who were very welcoming to 3 of us PCVs for the weekend. And to tell you about my experience helping Tsermaa (who lives in the other 1/2 of my house) skin a dozen freshly killed chickens–here they slit the throats instead of chopping off the heads and don’t pluck the feathers. I’ve become an expert! But those stories will have to wait for another time.

December 8, 2008 at 4:12 am Leave a comment


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